The Anglo-American Conservative Tradition and Its Surprising Jewish Roots

In today’s political discourse, argue Ofir Haivry and Yoram Hazony, there is a tendency to conflate two distinct sets of ideas: a conservative tradition embraced perhaps most importantly by Edmund Burke and Alexander Hamilton and a liberal tradition, founded by John Locke and embraced by Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson. These competing traditions share key points in common: respect for individual liberty, belief in republican government, and hostility toward dictatorship. But they differ in their attitudes toward universalism, religion, and progress. Haivry and Hazony trace the conservative tradition from the 15th-century English political philosopher John Fortescue to the 19th century, and note the influence of Judaism on some of its most important exponents:

According to Fortescue, . . . the powers of the English king are limited by the traditional laws of the English nation, in the same way—as Fortescue emphasizes—that the powers of the Jewish king in the Mosaic constitution in Deuteronomy are limited by the traditional laws of the Israelite nation. . . . [But] the decisive chapter in the formation of modern Anglo-American conservatism . . . is dominated by the figure of John Selden (1584–1654), probably the greatest theorist of Anglo-American conservatism. . . .

Selden saw himself as an heir to Fortescue. . . . His own much more extensive theoretical defense of English national traditions appeared in the form of short historical treatises on English law, as well as in a series of massive works examining political theory and law in conversation with classical rabbinic Judaism. In these works, Selden sought to defend conservative traditions, including the English one, not only against [advocates of absolute monarchy], but also against the claims of a universalist rationalism, according to which men could simply consult their own reason, which was the same for everyone, to determine the best constitution for mankind. . . .

Selden recognizes that, in making . . . selections from the traditions of the past, we tacitly rely upon a higher criterion for selection, a natural law established by God, which prescribes “what is truly best” for mankind in the most elementary terms. In his Natural and National Law, Selden explains that this natural law has been discovered over long generations since the biblical times and has come down to us in various versions. Of these, the most reliable is that of the Talmud, which describes the seven laws of the children of Noah prohibiting murder, theft, sexual perversity, cruelty to beasts, idolatry and defaming God, and requiring courts of law to enforce justice. . . .

Nonetheless, Selden emphasizes that no nation can govern itself by directly appealing to such fundamental law. . . It is thus wise to respect the different laws found among nations, both those that appear right to us and those that appear mistaken, for different perspectives may each have something to contribute to our pursuit of the truth.

Read more at American Affairs

More about: Conservatism, History & Ideas, John Locke, John Selden, Judaism, Political philosophy

Strengthening the Abraham Accords at Sea

In an age of jet planes, high-speed trains, electric cars, and instant communication, it’s easy to forget that maritime trade is, according to Yuval Eylon, more important than ever. As a result, maritime security is also more important than ever. Eylon examines the threats, and opportunities, these realities present to Israel:

Freedom of navigation in the Middle East is challenged by Iran and its proxies, which operate in the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Persian Gulf, and recently in the Mediterranean Sea as well. . . . A bill submitted to the U.S. Congress calls for the formulation of a naval strategy that includes an alliance to combat naval terrorism in the Middle East. This proposal suggests the formation of a regional alliance in the Middle East in which the member states will support the realization of U.S. interests—even while the United States focuses its attention on other regions of the world, mainly the Far East.

Israel could play a significant role in the execution of this strategy. The Abraham Accords, along with the transition of U.S.-Israeli military cooperation from the European Command (EUCOM) to Central Command (CENTCOM), position Israel to be a key player in the establishment of a naval alliance, led by the U.S. Fifth Fleet, headquartered in Bahrain.

Collaborative maritime diplomacy and coalition building will convey a message of unity among the members of the alliance, while strengthening state commitments. The advantage of naval operations is that they enable collaboration without actually threatening the territory of any sovereign state, but rather using international waters, enhancing trust among all members.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Abraham Accords, Iran, Israeli Security, Naval strategy, U.S. Foreign policy